Jun 25, 2013: Poor Professor Adewole, grieving and homesick in a land without coffee! I bet he’s hoping they find some in the mysterious floating island in the sky.
Many webfiction readers will be familiar with Meilin Miranda’s other popular fantasy serials and be eager, as I was, to see what she does with the steampunk genre. (Is she going to put the steam in steampunk?, "Intimate History" fans may be wondering – so far it appears the answer’s "no" on that – she seems to be keeping this one to a G-rating!) This particular work is part of a series of novels by different authors taking place in the same world, complementary but independant. All can be purchased as ebooks, however I believe "The Machine God" is the only one also being presented as a serial.
And yes, the story is adeptly written, with a delicate, poignant, and gently humourous style. The pacing is gentle too, and so far I would call it charming rather than exciting. This is likely about to change, as the story has just gotten off the ground (literally) and taken flight (also literally) in Chapter 5. I get the feeling that having the novel parcelled out a few pages at a time once a week in its serial form is quite a different experience than reading through the complete book would be: it creates an illusion of a stretched-out beginning with more time to wonder about the delightful details of this strange but familiar world and its likewise gentle but stalwart protagonist.
It’s very Victorian Britain, complete with teapots, boarding houses, housemaids in calico, and a upper class young man referring to his friend as "old thing", but it’s definitely an alien world with its own geography, bizarre quirks like talking birds and, most germanely, the "Drifting Isle" of the series title hanging mysteriously overhead. Its being so typically Victorian, although not an alternate history of our own world, is, I suppose, no more disbelievable than the myriad fantasy worlds with medieval European culture and technology. It’s within the established steampunk conceit, and yet, it being a "science fantasy" rather than that "just" magic-fantasy, I can’t help being analytical and wondering things like: How did women’s liberation come so much earlier in this world (nobody bats an eye at female government leaders, engineers, and military personnel), and since it did, is it still normal for women to wear ankle-length skirts? Surely they don’t wear corsets, or do they? Did bloomers catch on? (The engineer/pilot is described as wearing a "divided skirt" under coveralls).
Fans of steampunk, fans of Meilin, fans of good writing, fans of artificial intelligences (surely that’s where this Machine God business is going???), appreciaters of coffee – that must cover just about everyone – will all want to check this one out.
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